It’s nearly crunch time for retailers, as the holiday shopping season creeps closer. Adding to the pressure, this year’s peak period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is even shorter than usual.
Retailers with digital operations shouldn’t fret, according to Salesforce. In fact, in a new study released Wednesday, the tech company projects that e-commerce holiday sales are set to break records.
In its latest consumer insights and predictions study — which pulled together shopping data from over half a billion global shoppers, a proprietary study of ecommerce sites and a survey of more than 10,000 consumers — the company forecast that the season would pull in 13 percent revenue growth over last year, with total sales hitting a record $136 billion domestically and $768 billion globally.
While the report contains good news for e-commerce merchants, it doesn’t mean they can afford to fall asleep at the switch. The insights emphasize the need to be aware of timing and the patterns taking shape over the next few months — including the shortened selling period.
“With six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared to last year, consumers — and retailers — lose almost an entire week of deals and hot products,” Rob Garf, vice president of industry strategy and insights at Salesforce Retail, told WWD.
The key, he said, is to “drum up demand” early. Retailers should seek to entice shoppers with special product drops, creative collaborations, limited-time promotions and social exclusives.
While marketplaces like eBay may not cater to that kind of thinking, Garf recommends an early push and not just on one channel. It will take more than just listing a promotion on a homepage, for instance. Mobile, in particular, will dominate digital holiday sales, funneling 70 percent of ecommerce traffic and 52 percent of orders.
Salesforce sees new shopping platforms moving to center stage as the season ramps up. “These early shoppers will explore new channels — such as voice-enabled devices, messaging platforms and social media — to gain inspiration and make purchases,” Garf explained.
The generational aspect of the approach seems undeniable: Gen Z shoppers are 3.5 times more likely than Baby Boomers to use emerging shopping platforms, according to Salesforce data.
In general, early bird shopping — on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving — is expected to drive 19 percent year-over-year growth in global digital revenue. On Black Friday itself, the company pegs digital revenue at $7.3 billion in the U.S. and $39.6 billion globally, with Cyber Monday bringing in another $8.2 billion in the U.S and $32.2 billion globally.
As for the best day for digital discounts, that’s still Cyber Monday, which will have a 29 percent average discount rate.
Once the season gets underway, a crucial driver will be “click and collect,” also known as “buy online, pickup in store” (BOPIS), according to the study. Such services are expected to bring a major sales bump during the latter part of the season.
It extends “the longevity” of retail revenue, since shoppers can continue buying after December 14, Garf said.
“This service is critical,” he added. “Ecommerce sites that offer in-store order pickup will see 28 percent higher revenue share during the last five days of the season, compared to their store-owning peers who don’t provide the same experience.”
This year, the holiday shipping deadline falls on Dec. 14, which will bolster retailers who offer BOPIS. “With 83 percent of shoppers planning to shop in a physical store this holiday season, the convenience of click and collect extends the digital purchasing and shopping window well beyond the shipping deadline,” Salesforce noted.